Research indicates breastfeeding provides a baby with more than just nutritional benefits. However, many women find themselves indecisive when it comes to breastfeeding for numerous reasons.
However, when possible, women should plan to breastfeed their child for at least a year, adding other foods added in around six months. This can be a large commitment of time, and it can be only natural to wonder why breastmilk could make that big of a difference.
The following lists the benefits of breastfeeding many do not consider. While providing nutrition for the baby, the breastmilk is also helping to raise the bar for your child’s development on all physical, mental and emotional levels. Moreover, research has determined that for decades afterward the effects of breastfeeding extends even into adulthood and may give an advantage over those who were not breastfed at all.
Human breastmilk is ideally balanced with the right amount of protein, fat and vitamins for a newborn. This includes essential antibodies necessary for the first few months of life. As your baby continues to nurse and grow, your milk’s composition will also change to meet the demands of your child.
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Research has shown that babies who are breastfed have a lower incidence of asthma, ear infections, diarrhea or allergies. There are formulas on the market that come close to simulating true mother’s milk, but in the end, there is no substitute for the real thing.
Many studies point toward the conclusion that breastfed babies generally have a few IQ points more than their non-breastfed friends. Researchers took into account socioeconomic factors and still concluded that breastfed children did better on intelligence tests as older children, teens and adults. Scientists believe this is because the types of fatty acids present in breastmilk are specifically designed to spur growth in your baby’s brain and nervous system.
A few early studies concluded that breastfed infants do not tend to be obese in later life. They believe this is true because infants self-regulate how much they eat. Babies can determine how much or how little to take in as well as how long to nurse. Bottles tend to deliver a set amount of liquid and have a continual drip that will continue even if the infant is not suckling.
Breastmilk imparts a natural immunity to many diseases and syndromes that claim the lives of infants each year. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is one of them. Research indicates that while breastfed infants did still die of SIDS, only half as many cases were reported as compared to bottle-fed babies.
One of the other reasons breastfeeding promotes a healthy immune system is that breastfeeding makes the vaccines your baby will get, more effective. Other dangerous childhood diseases such as diabetes, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia and spinal meningitis are all offset by the immunity factor passed through the breastmilk by way of white blood cells.
Not only does breastmilk help your infant avoid devastating diseases, but it can also lessen the severity of infections, especially ear infections and respiratory illness. Babies who are premature often suffer from enterocolitis (NEC), but breastfed preemies are less likely to get it. Additionally, breastmilk benefits the development of helpful bacteria in the baby’s digestive system. Formula often changes the healthy bacteria and causes stomach upset.
A recent study of 1,000 infants who had been vaccinated was studied. Some were exclusively breastfed and others were partially breastfed and partially offered formula. The babies who were breastfed had fewer infections during their first year as compared to the infants who received formula and breastmilk. They concluded that the benefits only come from exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months.
Researchers have also concluded that breastfeeding feeds more than a child’s body. It feeds the child’s social and emotional growth. When a baby nurses, he or she is able to regulate his or her own body. The child is able to determine how much he or she will eat and when to stop. The baby learns what it feels like to be full and ceases eating.
Having an early autonomy in regard to his or her nutritional needs allows the infant to respond to his body’s cues. Bottles, with their continual drip, undermine this self-regulating feature. Breastfeeding was found to correlate to outcomes in later life that were positive in nature.
Babies who bond with their mothers through breastfeeding were found to have better emotional development and emotional stability. Psychologists attribute this to the skin-on-skin contact with the baby, which releases hormones (oxytocin and serotonin) in both mother and child. This encourages the bond and emotional attachment.
One study indicated that the effect of breastfeeding for more than six months could be seen in the better mental health of the child through to 14 years of age. The longer a child is able to breastfeed, the greater the effect.
Additionally, children who were breastfed were better able to handle stress both of a social and emotional nature. Scientists studied the brain wave patterns of babies and found that infants breastfed by depressed mothers still had normal brainwaves. Babies who were bottle-fed by depressed mothers showed brainwave patterns indicating depression.
There are a few studies establishing that breastfeeding protected mothers from postpartum depression of a sustained nature. Hormones that are released during lactation may be part of the reason. Additionally, because more calories are required to make milk and sustain it for many months, breastfeeding mothers lose baby-weight faster than mothers who bottle feed.
Mothers of breastfeeding babies also are shown to get more sleep than mothers who choose to bottle-feed. This is true even if a mother sometimes breastfeeds and sometimes bottle-feeds. Breastfeeding also lowers your risk for ovarian or breast cancer, and some studies indicate that it lowers the risk for developing osteoporosis in your later years.
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